I had the pleasure of reading The Janus Affair: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine over the last week. Before I get into the whys and wherefores of that pleasantness, allow me to get a few things out of the way, in case these names or this book series is new to you.
Tee Morris is an actor, author, and podcaster from the Virginia area. He’s written fiction and non-fiction and I’m absolutely a fan of his style. Pip Ballantine is also an author and a podcaster and has come from New Zealand to live in the states and write full time. I’ve enjoyed many of the things she’s written as well. Together they’ve begun a journey into the world of steampunk (more on what that is here). It started with Phoenix Rising and a series of podcast short stories written by authors from around the world. This book is the sequel to those efforts.
It concerns two agents, Wellington Books and Eliza Braun, who work in a rather passive way as archivists for Great Britain’s Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Think X-files filtered through the sepia lens of Victorian England and you’re on the right track. Notable suffragists have been disappearing under mysterious circumstances and the two agents take it upon themselves, due to some personal relationships, to investigate. Doing so requires secrecy, danger, and no small amount of political maneuvering. They dodge mysterious assassins and their own supervisor’s scrutiny to get to the bottom of the mystery.
So, how was it? I’m an author myself and I can tell you from experience that writing with a partner is hard. I’ve read and reviewed a number of collaborations over the years. Done well, it takes the talents of both authors and creates something greater than the sum of its parts. Done poorly it’s a complete and utter train wreck. This book fails squarely in the former category.
Tee’s ability to create cracking good dialog and action is one of the things I love about his work. Pip’s talent in writing romance and creating lush worlds full of detail is something I appreciate as well. Together they have created quite an enjoyable tale. The thing that impresses me most is, there are no seams that I can see. They have taken their different abilities and points of view and fused them. I’m sure that no small amount of credit for that goes to an editor or two somewhere along the line, but even the best editor can’t create gems from dross, and this is a gem.
If you like high adventure with a mix of humor, romance, and a dash of social commentary, then this is indeed a book for you. If you’re not a fan of steampunk or don’t even know what that is I’d still give this world a shot. Fair warning, it can lead to addiction.